The Christian challenge is the challenge to move continually in the direction of Godís purposes in Christ. That is what Jewish Christians did in the first century. That is what gentile Christians did in the first century. Often, many Jewish Christians did not understand that God could save even people who were not circumcised. Often, many gentile Christians suffered the consequences of a Ďspiritual inferiority complexí. Both needed to grow beyond national or personal concerns. Both had to grow! Were both groups Christians? Yes! Did both groups need to grow? Yes! Was anyone totally correct in his or her understanding? No! For every Christian it was a growth process.
God is vastly bigger than believing humansóindividually or collectively. Godís purposes are beyond believing humansí comprehension [not beyond a trusting faith, but beyond human comprehension]. Paul concluded a discussion of Jew-gentile realities with these words:
Romans 11:33-36 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
Peter was in a saved relationship with God when he did not know or comprehend the realities of Godís purposes in Christ that were revealed to him in Acts 10. God in Christ maintained Peterís salvation! Jewish Christians were in a saved relationship with God when they did not understand Godís purposes in Christ to uncircumcised gentiles. God in Christ maintained their salvation! Gentile Christians were in a saved relationship with God as they struggled to abandon the lifestyle idolatry encouraged and accept the lifestyle Christ encouraged. Read Ephesians 4:17-32 and note gentile Christiansí struggle. God in Christ maintained their salvation!
God through the grace provided in Jesus Christ can grant and maintain salvation to any human who places trust in Jesus Christ! The human quality that must complement faith in Christ is growth in an understanding of Godís purposes. God will not maintain salvation in a person who rebels against Christ or rebels against Godís purposes. This rebellion is the defiant rejection of an understanding of Godís purposes in Christ. God will maintain salvation in a believer who is far less than completely correct but is growing in awareness and understanding of His purposes in Christ. That describes every person in Christ!
Does that mean God can [and will] extend forgiveness to one person and withhold forgiveness from another person when each person struggles with an identical problem? Yes! How can that be? The first believer is growing. The second believer is rebelling. As important as pursuing correctness is, correctness is not the primary responsibility of faith in Christ. Growth is the primary responsibility of faith in Christ.
Because Christians are never at the same point of understanding and development at any given moment, unity or oneness in Christ is never based on uniformity! Uniformity is a human accomplishment. Grace is a divine accomplishment. Christians are one in Christ because of Godís achievements in Jesusí death!
Godís administration of grace to believers who accept Christís rule is not a license to be irresponsible. Grace in Christ is Godís expression of patience with responsible believers in Christ that permits Him to grant believers time to grow. Because of Godís patience reflected in His grace, Christians never stop growing toward correctness! No Christian is ever totally correct, but all Christians are growing toward correctness.
Christians are not one in Christ with every believer who is Ďcorrectí or Ďagrees with themí. Christians are one in Christ with every believer who is growing toward Ďcorrectnessí. ĎCorrectnessí is not some form of human approval or human acceptance. ĎCorrectnessí is determined by Godís purposes in Christ. Faith in Christ is expressed when a believer has the personal courage to accept and apply a previously unknown understanding of Godís purposes in Christ.
The Christian Challenge
The man or woman who places confidence and trust in Godís accomplishments in Jesusí death has the following responsibilities.
Grow in an understanding of Godís accomplishments in Jesusí death.
Grow in an understanding of the meaning of Jesusí resurrection.
Grow in trust of Godís accomplishments. Reflect this growth in attitudes, emotions, relationships, behavior, and personal values.
Grow in making it evident through your lifestyle that Jesus Christ is Lord of your life.
Grow in your struggle against evil in your life.
Grow in your willingness to resist and confront evil in the world by doing good (see Romans 12:21).
Grow as you increasingly transform yourself using the image of Christ as your standard.
Grow in your ability to encourage others.
Grow in your ability to reflect the peace and joy of relationship with God in life.
Grow in your willingness to be responsible as one who trusts Christ.
Grow in your awareness that you are never totally Ďcorrectí, but you are always growing in your grasp of Godís purposes in Christ.
Refuse to allow the human concept of Ďcorrectnessí to be your standard for measuring a Christianís faith when the Christian lives by a believing trust in Jesus Christ.
Refuse to accept uniformity as the biblical definition of unity in Christ.
Romans 12:3-5 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Allow Godís purposes in Christ to determine who you are and how you live.
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